Strip malls: offering choice to the subarbanized consumer

It does not even appear to be night as I veer off the trench freeway and thrust my car onto a serious of ramps that ultimately lead to a street called (enter your own) boulevard. I can see all the signs bursting forth with light illuminating the jet black sky and creating an alien like appearance. It is as if someone has turned off the faucet of darkness that comes from the normal sun rotations and instead has brought forth a never ending daylight. I drive sullenly down the four lane stretch of grooved concrete, this road like all others around the United States has the ever present center turning lane, and contains a poor excuse for a sidewalk. In fact if you happen to be walking G-d forbid through this alien wasteland you will probably be arrested or be hollered at, since you can only be a hooker, crack head, or sexual predator. Why would anyone want to walk to the store, or to the salon?

The 3 inches of road that are divided from the sidewalk by a straight white solid barely visible line, are covered with bottle caps, gravel shards, and cigarette butts. Even the sidewalk is not protected from this miniature garbage dump. Once in a while I can even see a weed popping through the almost abandoned sidewalk to remind me that there does indeed exist some form of nature in this awful place. The lone weed waving in the wind, gasping for air, fighting the forces of concrete and cigarettes being flung from car windows- provides the passerby with the knowledge that not all nature is lost- there exists a higher force. Eventually nature will reclaim this barren wasteland of shopping carts, billboards, SUV’s, and sullen humans navigating through this monotonous never changing world.

If one were plopped down in this jungle of parking lots larger then some small farms, and stores that stock more food then many Sub-Saharan Nations- this person would not able to place where he is- he could be as they say “anywhere, anytown USA”.

The brightly lit golden arches welcoming the driver with an urge for a supper in a sack consisting of a 99 cent heart attack. Or the large yellow sign of Best Buy begging the rat race participator looking for a new gadget to make his 80 hour a week a little more pleasurable. Or maybe you are a soccer mom taking your kids out to ice cream at friendly’s, one can always count on the uniformity of the retail section of anytown USA. All those familiar signs and stores, and people never fearing that they may find something different then they are used to. Oh how exicting it must be to go shopping and know exactly what you will be getting, where it will be located, and what the price will be. Or the taste of that big mac- exactly as it tasted the first time you bit into one 15 years ago- laden with plastic like cheese and grade D tomatoes and wilted lettuce- that may not even lettuce at all- only corporate knows for sure.

Amid all this madness of nig box stores, gas stations emitting more beaming lights then the bomb on Hiroshima, and all these chain restaurants boasting uniformity and normalcy- there exists something of quality. It of course is an inanimate quality that can only be enjoyed by those who look deeper then the scattered shopping carts, angry business men, and annoyed soccer moms. I am talking about the representation of freedom. Freedom exists to the fullest in this vast expanse of choice. Many may argue that there is in fact a lack of choice since the same stores in every city constantly set up shop and offer nothing new, always offering the same items at the same prices creating in fact a forced choosing of product. Laying this simple fact aside- those big box stores offer an extreme abundance of choice. Not only can you choose between different brands of items and prices- you can choose- only if you have a car of course- different types of stores. Wal Mart for the poor, Target for the middle class, Pier One Imports for the upper middle class, and Crate and Barrel for the Yuppies. Yes they are all complete with uniformity and lack of choice once entered- but you can still make the initial choice of where to point your SUV once you maneuver your way cursing at fellow drivers who will not let you out of the center turning lane.

All this freedom of choice leads me to yet another observation of the goodness of the strip mall sections of towns- CAPITALISM- without it, these stores would look a little more gray and try to appear as if they were a communist prison. Without our free economic system we would be limited to Wal Mart and Best Buy- no Staples, no K-Mart, no Target, what would we do- more importantly. What would our friend Prudence the tofu eating, tree hugging, vegan from Burlington Vermont do? You can only protests big box stores when they take over the little guy- with one store there would be no small veganistic, over priced, hippy candle stores on main street in the village a bit down the road from the strip mall section.

I can imagine an ongoing Wal Mart protest with a bunch of tie die clad, hairy women, screaming about how Wal Mart is taking over. I imagine the women being run over by a bunch of normal blue collar types wearing flannel, driving their raised up F-150 into this mob screaming the South Will Rise Again- at these liberal tree huggin’ Yankees.